Universities should “keep assessing the market”

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It comes after commencements and visas lodged both saw record breaking numbers in the latter periods of 2023. 

While 2022 saw numbers begin to climb back up after Covid, September 2023 saw 197,770 commencements, dwarfing the number from the previous September and even that of 2019, which was 165,079, according to a key data update by Studymove.

“It’s nearly [reached] 200,000 – the word to explain this is ‘extraordinary’. It’s a record number, and it shows how quick and unexpected the recovery was,” said Keri Ramirez, managing director of Studymove. 

December 2023 is predicted to see the biggest number in history in terms of year-to-date commencements, with 208,179.

That figure would vastly supercede predictions made the previous year, saying that commencements would rise by 11% – instead, it would be a 41% rise compared to 2022.

“It is something that we’ve never seen before, and it was definitely unexpected. Our estimate for the start of the year was 175,000 – we were completely wrong,” Ramirez continued. 

In terms of 2024, having examined the visas lodged between July and October 2023 by the top five countries – a record 82,961 – there should statistically be continuation of significant growth in student numbers. But this may not end up being the case, Ramirez warned.

“The number of student visas lodged – that has been growing. But the number of visas granted has changed significantly in the last few years.

“I think this is the readjustment that we’re going to start seeing as a result of some of the readjustment that we are going to see in 2024,” Ramirez said, perhaps referring to the effects of government policy. 

Australia released its Migration Review on December 11, introducing sweeping reforms to try and tackle the migration rate and introduce “quality not quantity” into the international education sector.   

For example, Studymove showed the data that 97% of Indian student visas were granted in July to October 2020 – in the same period in 2023, that percentage point has dropped dramatically to 62%.

A similar picture is painted in Nepal – in July to October 2020 the rate was 99%. The figure in 2023 between those months was just 54%.

“As such, I think 2024 is going to be a year where, perhaps, institutions are going to be affected depending on where they are engaging,” Ramirez explained. 

“Universities need to be aware if they have high engagement with India or Nepal. If they have high engagement with China, it’s not going to change significantly,” he said. 

“It is something that we’ve never seen before, and it was definitely unexpected”

Speaking just before the Migration Review was released, Ramirez said there would indeed potentially be a lot of changes that could “directly or indirectly affect” the landscape. 

“I don’t think the effects of any policies will be felt that much in the first half of 2024,” he noted. 

“Universities should have some lead time to readjust… it’s also important that the effects will likely not be uniform. Some markets will be affected more than others,” he added.

While some source markets may be more affected than others, Masters’ and PhD students may be affected more than undergraduates due to the curtailing of post study work rights – and the age cap on applications for the Temporary Graduate Visa.

“We tend to think about government policies as something bad – it’s natural – but the reality is that in many ways it could help the sector. It’s important for institutions to make a reassessment and see what the positive and negative effects could be on their recruitment strategy,” Ramirez remarked. 



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